Sanger High hosts Serra-San Mateo in the North 2-A Regional on Saturday night while Strathmore is home against Horizon Christian Academy-San Diego in the South 6-A bowl as the two central San Joaquin Valley schools attempt to secure a spot in next week’s CIF State Championships.
Full recaps after all games will be available at www.fresnobee.com/sports.
It was a night of near-misses for area schools on Friday. Selma scored in the closing minute to get within one, only to fail on a 2-point pass and lose to Bakersfield Christian 28-27 in the South 4-AA Regional. Mendota’s late rally came up short in a 21-14 loss to Amador-Sutter Creek in the North 6-AA bowl.
Here’s the latest on Saturday’s games:
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Serra 49, Sanger 36, FINAL
San Jose State commit Sitaleki Nunn, a senior quarterback who already had run for three scores, threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns before added yet another on the ground as Serra outlasted Sanger at a packed Tom Flores Stadium.
The Padres (10-4) will face South champ Los Angeles (11-3) or Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth (13-0) next Saturday at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.
Jacob Tijerina threw 6 yards to Christian Graney on third-and goal to get Sanger back into a 28-28 tie with 1:27 to go in the third quarter.
But there was little answer on defense against Nunn, whose 54-yard heave to Charlie Quinn on third-and-16 made it 35-28 with 11:50 left in the game. After the Apaches were forced to punt, Nunn scrambled away from the rush, rolled left and found a wide-open Isiah Kendrick for a 55-yard score.
His sixth total TD was a 5-yard run with 1:39 remaining. Sanger’s Jacob Tijerina passed 74 yards to Jalen Cropper with 29 seconds left and the Apaches (13-1) added a 2-point run to account for the final score.
Andrew Azua’s 36th career TD, on a 21-yard run, had pulled Sanger into a 21-21 tie with 7:39 to go in the third. Nunn then had a 60-yard run and carried the final 2 yards as the Padres went back in front.
Sanger super sophomore Jalen Cropper, on the game’s opening possession, raced 59 yards for a touchdown and Graney added a 66-yard scamper as the Apaches took first-quarter leads of 7-0 and 14-7 while looking to extend the career of 27-year, 200-game-winning coach Chuck Shidan.
Sanger, looking for a tying score just before halftime, drove to the Padres 6 only to see Taniela Latu intercept Tijerina in end zone.
Serra had tied it at 7 on Nunn’s 4-yard run up the middle with 1:32 left in the first quarter, but Graney delivered an immediate response.
The Padres made it 14-14 when Graney, as a defensive back, slipped in coverage, allowing Quinn to convert an easy 45-yard catch and run on a pass from Luke Bottari.
For additional updates, follow The Bee’s Andy Boogaard @beepreps.
Strathmore 62, Horizon Christian 22, FINAL
Joseph Garcia scored four touchdowns in the first two quarters, then added three more in the second half as Strathmore was nearly unstoppable on offense while marching toward a berth in the state final.
Garcia’s seventh TD was a 1-yarder that pushed his rushing total to 421 yards on the night and all but locked it up with 7:42 to play.
Strathmore (14-0) will host St. Patrick/St. Vincent-Vallejo (12-3) at 6 p.m. next Saturday for the 6-A title. The Bruins were 47-18 winners over Brookside Christian-Stockton in the North Regional.
His sixth had come from 65 yards out, providing the Spartans with a 26-point lead with 10:20 left in the game. His 1-yard run made it 41-22 with 26 seconds to go in the third.
It shaped up as a shootout early.
Gilbert Acevedo returned a squib kick 79 yards for a Spartans touchdown on the opening kickoff and Garcia rushed 44 yards for a score on his team’s first offensive series. But each time, Horizon Christian had an answer.
Garcia then had scoring runs of 8 yards with 2:26 left in the first quarter and 4 yards with 6:12 left until halftime. An Andres Lara strip and Edgar Barajas recovery of a fumble set up No. 4, with Garcia tucking the ball back in on a halfback option, reversing field and rushing 6 yards.
A botched trick play, leading to a turnover, allowed Horizon Christian to creep closer just before halftime. Thomas Marcus passed 9 yards to Jalen Nelson for a touchdown on the half’s final play from scrimmage. Marcus threw to Nelson for a 2-point conversion.
The Panthers, in a game that saw rain begin to fall in the final seconds leading up to the opening whistle, countered on their opening series with a 3-yard pass from Marcus to Diandre Daniels to tie it 7-7. It was Daniels again, this time on a 65-yard run to the end zone, to make it 14-14 with 5:33 to go in the first.
Strathmore, like Sanger, also is looking to extend its so far perfect 13-0 season. Horizon Christian is 7-6 but entered averaging 44.8 points in a four-game winning streak.
Nick Giannandrea (@NickG_FB) is on the scene in Tulare County.